Over 60 members from the public attended the August 31 town hall meeting. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

The San Benito County High School District held its first set of town hall meetings last week to discuss the planning and preparation for the district’s second high school. The meetings, conducted in Spanish on Aug. 30 and in English on Aug. 31, drew over 70 community members. Several district and Hollister High School staff members were also present. 

It was the first set of three town hall meetings that will involve the community in planning the second high school. 

The goal of the first session, titled “Listening,” was to hear what the public would like to see. 

“Your voices matter,” Assistant Superintendent of Academics and Instructional Programs, Elaine Klauer told guests at the English-language meeting. “We’d like to be able to continue listening today.”

District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum and Chief Financial Officer John Frusetta began the meetings with a presentation about the current enrollment, facility master plan status of Hollister High School and the growing population in San Benito County. The information provided noted that the school is already over capacity.

Led by Brian Meyers, architect consultant with HMC Architects, guests were asked to break into groups of four to seven people and note what they imagined the new high school would look like. The groups then shared their visions with the larger group. 

Common themes found by attendees at both sessions were: open space/landscaping, onsite social services, athletic facilities, solar lighting and landscaping, a theater, a spacious library, student union, kitchen, security and safety in entering/exiting campus, more staff, ADA compliance, and more career technical education and college preparation courses. 

“Me pareció un evento muy bien, con mucha información porque así pudimos obtener más ideas de lo que ellos están pensando en construir una nueva preparatoria para los estudiantes,” Maria Ureña told BenitoLink after the Spanish-language town hall.

(I think it was a great event, with a lot of information. We were able to get a lot of information about what they are thinking as they look to build a second high school for our students.)

Hollister High School teacher Grace Tobias said she was happy to hear about the need for a performing arts auditorium.  

“I love that that was a focus that popped up a couple of times,” she said. “There are tremendous aspects of this campus that I don’t think we need to duplicate. Let’s enhance the shortcomings we have here in a new space.” 

The district plans to hold a second public forum on Jan. 17 and 18 of next year titled “What We Heard,” and a closing forum, “Celebration,” on June 12 and 13.  

Klauer told BenitoLink the district will be attending elementary schools on a weekly basis until December with a similar activity as this first town hall meeting. 

“These are the students that will have access to the second high school,” she said. “We need to hear from our elementary families, as well.” 

The district will begin its visits with Rancho Santana School on Sept. 13.  

“We ask that you continue coming to these meetings and invite a friend,” Klauer said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. We hope you’re ready.”

We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She attended Hollister schools, graduated from San Benito High School, and earned her bachelor’s degree in literature...